162 Indians in Bangladesh jails awaiting return

April 15th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, April 15 (IANS) There are 162 Indian nationals, including Assamese separatist leader Anup Chetia, in Bangladesh’s jails, awaiting release and repatriation after serving their jail terms. They are among the 290 foreign nationals stuck in different jails of the country due to diplomatic and bureaucratic tangles, even though their jail terms have expired, The Daily Star newspaper said.

Around 380 Indians are among the 521 foreign nationals serving jail terms for various crimes.

Chetia, leader of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), has been detained for over 10 years.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG-Prisons) Maj. Shamsul Haider Siddique said: “Once Anup Chetia was in Dhaka Central Jail but now he is in Mymensingh jail.”

Wanted by Indian authorities, Chetia had been convicted for carrying false travel documents.

As his term was getting over, a Bangladeshi NGO, run by the wife of a minister in the former government of Begum Khaleda Zia, sought his custody and opposed his being sent back to India.

Dhaka authorities took no decision then.

There is no repatriation treaty between Bangladesh and India who, however, have been exchanging wanted people from time to time on an informal basis.

India has charged that many fugitives belonging to separatist and militant organisations operating in its northeastern region are hiding in Bangladesh.

It has also provided precise addresses and the nature of operations, besides their business links blessed by the Dhaka authorities.

Bangladesh, however, denies it.

New Delhi last week again formally sought Chetia’s senior, ULFA chief Paresh Barua when top officials of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Border Security Force (BSF) of India held formal meetings in New Delhi.

The Bangladesh side said Barua was “no longer in Bangladesh”, but provided no details as to when he was there or on his current whereabouts.

India also submitted a list of names of fugitives and locations of camps where they operate.

Bangladesh Inspector General of Prisons (IG-Prisons) Brig. Gen. Zakir Hassan told The Daily Star: “We have been trying to repatriate them. The home ministry and the foreign ministry have also been contacting embassies and high commissions concerned.”

Among the prisoners of foreign nationality 162 are Indians, 128 Myanmarese, two Tanzanians, two Nepalis, one Pakistani, one Filipino, one from Saudi Arabia, one Kenyan and a Hungarian, though their jail terms have expired. Of them, eight Indian and two Myanmarese prisoners are women.

Sources said authorities concerned could not collect information about the prisoners who have no passports. Most Indian and Myanmarese detainees have no passports.

Hassan said: “We as well as the home and foreign ministries always send letters to the authorities of the foreign detainees a few days before their jail terms end so that they can take steps to repatriate their citizens on time.”

“In most cases, we do not get responses from them. After receiving our letters, the authorities concerned sometime inform us that they failed to trace the detainees’ origin,” he said.

The IG-prisons said a few NGOs have been working with foreign prisoners and their repatriation issues but they could not make any headway. He said the state has to count the extra cost of keeping them in jail.

Former adviser to the caretaker government Sultana Kamal, executive director of the NGO called Ain O Shalish Kendra, told The Daily Star Monday: “We have been working with the jail authorities and also contacting the embassies concerned.

“The process is lengthy. There are some specific cases that depend on diplomatic and bureaucratic decisions.”

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